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The mask, the music, the dark mysteries, and the tortured, deformed genius who just wants love. "The Phantom of the Opera" is so well known that its story needs no explanation.

But Gaston Leroux's novel is still a spellbinding experience, full of atmospheric horror, a sense of gothic mystery, and lushly evocative language. But its crown jewel is Erik: a magnificently tortured anti-hero who inspires more horror, pity and sympathy than the rather flat hero and heroine.

The Paris opera house is said to be haunted by a ghost with a "death's head," who demands a small salary and a reserved box. Despite the sightings and fears of ballerinas and stagehands, the new managers are determined to stamp out this ridiculous story -- despite threatening letters and increasing accidents that happen around them.

Meanwhile, budding diva Christine Daae is taking Paris by storm, although nobody quite knows who taught her how to sing. And when her childhood friend Viscount Raoul de Chagny pays her a visit, he hears a passionate exchange between her and a man -- but there's no man there. She credits her new vocal abilities to the Angel of Music, but of course, that self-same Angel is the opera ghost.

As the Phantom becomes even more attached to Christine, Raoul soon finds that the ghost is actually a half-mad, horribly deformed musical genius named Erik -- and that after Christine saw his true face, he made her become engaged to him. The young lovers plan to run away together, but the "Angel of Music" isn't about to allow his beloved Christine to leave him...

Apparently there actually were some odd events -- including rumours of an opera ghost -- happening when Gaston Leroux began writing "The Phantom of the Opera." And it's a credit to his imgination that he was able to spin a some odd facts into a harrowing, heartbreaking love triangle that's based on music, obsession, adoration, and a bit of pity. And, of course, a frighteningly sympathetic "villain."

Admittedly the style is very "penny dreadful": melodramatic and overloaded on prose. But Leroux's talent shines through -- he drapes the book in a haunted atmosphere, full of snowy graveyards, dark opera backstages and underground labyrinths, all with Erik's presence hovering over it. The plot is mostly a slow, satiny procession toward the inevitable blowup, but Leroux does tinge it with scenes of romantic drama, a feeling of dread, one shocking action scene, and even some quirky humour at times.

And Leroux's writing is simply astounding as he describes the corpselike appearance of Erik ("... tore his terrible dead flesh with my nails") and his "death's" head appearance at the party. But he also excels at the more poignant moments -- Erik's final, rambling monologue to Christine after she kisses him is heartbreakingly clumsy and saddening.

Though Christine and Raoul are the hero and heroine of the book, they're actually kind of flat. Erik is the real star -- an arrogant genius who is also pitifully lonely. And insane. Despite his crazed behavior -- which results in at least two deaths -- it's hard not to feel sympathy for someone cursed with such a ghastly appearance, and so starved for human contact that a single kiss changes his life ("... he tried to catch my eye, like a dog sitting by its master").

Despite being a bit overblown in the style of its time, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a triumph of atmosphere, horror, and one of the most memorably sympathetic "villains" that you can find on the shelves. Magnificent.
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on 13 April 2000
A fascinating story of the Paris Opera House ghost! If you have seen Andrew Lloyd Webbers' musical show, then this gives a thrilling insight to, and apparant truth about The Phantom of the Opera.
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on 17 December 2012
Excellent read good flow and gives you the whole story of the opera house and box 5 and how the ghost moves around the theatre.

I saw the stage show then read the book it's worth reading to know how beautiful & tragic the ghost is xx
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on 19 February 2013
I picked this book because I had heard so much about it without having ever read it. Being a classical book I was prepared for quite a dry read, however after a slow start the chapters flew by. Very enjoyable!
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on 21 March 2011
Most people have at least heard of the Phantom of the Opera, so there is no excuse for not reading the original novel! This novel is the basis for all other adaptations of the story, whether it be film, musical or other novels. For anyone who has seen the musical or the 2004 film, the characters will seem very different when they read this book, something which I think is due to the style in which the novel is written. It is more a report of the story of the Phantom, where the author appears to have interviewed anyone connected with the Phantom. I think this style is very effective, as it keeps the Phantom at an arm's length away from the reader, enhancing the mystery which shrouds him. While events and when they happen are slightly different in the novel to the musical and 2004 film, the essential story is just as dark, romantic and utterly captivating; I could not put this book down once I started to read it! Even after finishing the novel, so many questions remained unanswered, again deepening the mystery of the Phantom and leaving the reader to wonder and perhaps even hope that such a remarkable man may have actually existed.
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on 1 March 2009
I had been wanting to read this book for many years and I am so glad I have. It is a masterpiece! It has a wonderful mixture of morbidity & macarbre and heart breaking emotions. Which ended up with me crying.

Set in the late 1800's in a real Opera house in Paris. It is a beautiful Gothic Horror/Romantic tragedy. The Phantom, Erik is a severly deformed man who lives in the catacombes of the opera and has fallen in love with a soprano called Christine. Christine on the other hand has fallen in love with her childhood friend Raoul, sounds pretty tacky but it really isn't.

Although Erik is portrayed as the anti-hero (he goes around commiting murders and causing mayhem) it is impossible to not feel sorry for him. When his face is revealed there is such detail put into his description in very little words so it doesn't drown on.

The first few chapters are pretty dull but the book does pick up.....alot. The chapters are short so it's easy to read if you have a low attention span like I do. Although there have been many adaptations of the book in films, theatre etc nothing compares to the original novel.....Nothing.
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on 24 September 2014
So much better than the film or the musical. Always read the book!
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on 24 November 2009
I have seen both the film (2004) and the stage version of Phantom of the Opera and loved it so the next logical step was to read the book from which the story came...It is not what I expected. I know that something would have to be changed for the stage and film but the extent to which they were suprised me...for example, there are characters I had never heard of! That being said I still loved the book, am glad I bought it and will read to again...mulitple times. The phantom is protrayed differently in the book but I liked this, maybe more than in the film on on stage, and the end still had the same impact it usually does...
Overall, I would definatly recommend this book to people who already liked THe Phantom of the Opera and to anyone else!
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on 23 March 2010
I originally got into the phantom of the opera via the musical film version, and then I started looking it up on the internet. Pretty soon I was hooked onto the phantom of the opera, having also watched the film featuring Herbert Lom.

I enjoyed this book a lot, it was a cross between a detective's story, a romantic story, and that of a lonely man looking for love. It was tragic, intriuging, and captivating at the same time. I, however, had to read it twice to properly comprehend the events taking place in it, for it can get a bit confusing, but maybe that's just me.

Overall, a smashing book.
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on 21 November 2009
Although, the movies made from this book are brilliant, my problem with the writer is that he has no focus during the book and even though the book is suppose to be a gothic love story betweem erik and christine and rauol, I found out that I hated all of the characters very much. There was no way of relating to them at all. Another issue is that during the book sometimes it becomes very interesting and picks up pace and then there is a serious anticlimax and then the book picks up again and fall .... (you get the point)

In this instance, the movies are much better than the book and for anyone who wants to enjoy a real gothic novel should read matthew lewis's the monk or mary shelley's frankenstein. However there is another book called Phantom. That is a brilliant book about the phantom of the opera and does the original classic justice.
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